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City Guide 2017: Concordia Neighborhood

Apr. 11, 2017
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Manderley Bed & Breakfast Inn

Situated between 27th and 35th streets and Wisconsin and Highland avenues, the Concordia Neighborhood is a testament both to Milwaukee’s past and to its continually changing urban center. Once the site of a Potawatomi village, the area was platted as “Dousman’s Subdivision” in 1848. For the next few decades, it was mostly used as farmland and sat outside Milwaukee’s city limits. When it was finally fully absorbed into the city in 1885, 27th Street was quickly becoming a magnet for middle-class Milwaukeeans—mostly German immigrants and relocated East Coast Yankees—who worked Downtown and sought residential spaces away from the bustle of the city’s more densely populated areas.

Crucial to the neighborhood’s growth was Concordia College, for which the neighborhood was named, which was moved to 33rd and Highland from Downtown in 1882. The college was a Lutheran preparatory academy for the seminary and attracted a number of Lutheran families into the area. By the turn of the century, Concordia had grown into a cozy and well-to-do residential neighborhood.

The diverse character of this period of growth has left behind one of the most fascinating collections of architecture in the city. Some homes date as far back as the 1850s, when the only street in the neighborhood was the plank road that led to Watertown. The Robert Faries home (3011 W. State St.) was completed in 1851. The home was built in the Italianate Style with a flat roof so that its namesake, a telescope maker and amateur astronomer, could perch atop the house to view the heavens on clear evenings. The Charles Rogers house (3130 W. Wells St.) was built for a local grain commission merchant in 1897 and is an excellent example of the era’s lush Victorian Gothic Style. The Germanic architectural influences common in the neighborhood can be seen in the massive Harnischfeger Mansion (3424 W. Wisconsin Ave.), completed in 1905. More modest houses were built in the Colonial, Queen Anne, and Prairie Arts and Crafts styles. The work of nearly every prominent Milwaukee architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries could once be found here.

Charles Rogers House

Sadly, many of these historic buildings were lost in the 1950s through 1970s. Hundreds of homes had fallen into disrepair as families left the neighborhood and other central-city areas. The West-Side Conservation Corps was founded in the 1980s to help reverse this trend. The group purchased and renovated hundreds of historic older homes, many of which had been converted into multi-unit apartments, and sold them to families in an effort to return a base of dedicated residents to the area.

Harnischfeger Mansion

Marie and Andrew Parker bought into the neighborhood in the early 1990s. With a dream of running their own bed and breakfast, they purchased a large Victorian home at 3026 W. Wells St. which was about to be razed and had been stripped of its fixtures. “It was an absolute wreck,” said Marie, “Twelve boarding rooms on three floors, all sharing only two bathrooms.” With a lot of hard work and help from local neighborhood groups, the home was fully restored and today operates as the Manderley Bed & Breakfast Inn.

The drive to save Concordia has been long but fruitful; the neighborhood is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and many of its older homes have been restored to their century-old glory. Other entrepreneurs have followed the Parkers’ lead, and today Concordia is known as Milwaukee’s “Bed and Breakfast District.” But like any Milwaukee neighborhood, it’s more than just buildings and businesses that make Concordia a true community. “The homes drew us to the area,” Maria said. “The people keep us here.”

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